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Primus Primer: Andrew Hunter

10897112_1614144802141735_6578436952931233883_nHe’s not the biggest guy in the field; he might be the smallest. He’s also not the most experienced, though he has more years under his belt that you might think. But Andrew Hunter is a threat to win at PRIMUS because he might the the hungriest.

Andrew Hunter has been a fixture ever since PWF debuted at the Arena in Jeffersonville. He’s already faced two men in the tournament this year, Aaron Williams and Cash Flo. He’s battled men two and three times his size, and like a honey badger staring down a wildebeest, he does so without any fear.

Hunter currently holds one half of the UWA tag team championship with his partner, Matt Atreya. He also cracked the top 100 for the Indy Power Rankings’ mid year rankings, coming in at 95.

Hunter has his detractors in and out of the business, but he has done everything his way and continues to find success. He has dreams of breaking out from the local scene, where he works both PWF and UWA, and Primus might be the first step to fulfilling those dreams. He has his work cut out for him with Chip Day waiting for him in the first round.

Pro Wrestling Freedom: Primus on Friday takes place on September 9 in Jeffersonville, Indiana at the Arena. For event and ticket information, visit the PWF: The Primus page on Facebook.

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A new day for Kentucky wrestling?

Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin surprised the wrestling world yesterday when he announced the creation of a new governing body dedicated to expanding fight sports in the Commonwealth. The Kentucky Boxing and Wrestling Authority (KBWA) will oversee boxing, wrestling, MMA, and other full-contact sports. The new website for the KBWA states the group’s purpose as follows:

“Our mission is to encourage the growth of professional boxing and wrestling in the Commonwealth, while protecting participants and spectators of the sports. We strive to improve the sports by thoughtful, reasonable and fair regulation and monitoring.”

Early reaction to the announcement was largely positive. One of the stated goals of the KBWA is to attract major wrestling events – i.e. WWE – back to Kentucky. WWE has not held a Raw taping in Louisville since 2010, and the last WWE pay-per-view held in Louisville was Judgement Day in 2000.

While the possibility of attracting a major WWE show is exciting, many are wondering what impact this new commission will have on independent wrestling. It’s no secret that Kentucky is one of the most restrictive states in the nation when it comes to regulating wrestling. Kentucky is one of the few states that governs wrestling as a legitimate sport, and the red tape involved with promoting and wrestling in Kentucky is staggering.

“The hardest challenge in getting licensed in Kentucky isn’t finding a venue,” says Rick Brady, owner of D1W. “It was putting up a $5000 bond to throw a show. Since I had insurance, I was never sure why was the bond necessary. Second, I had to fill out an application and wait for them to decide to even give me a hearing to get a license. Third, I had to go to the hearing, and even if I posted the $5000 bond, I was still not guaranteed they would approve me for a license.”

The Kentucky Athletic Commission is notoriously stingy about handing out licenses to promoters. Brady contends that the Commission will not allow two promotions to run in the same territory, much like the old days of the NWA, and no one is allowed to move in and compete with the licensed promoters.

Kentucky regulations are equally cumbersome for the wrestlers, and anyone who wants to work in the business. Anyone who steps on the other side of the barrier wall from the fans – wrestlers, managers, valets, ring announcers, time keepers, and more – is required to have a license, and everyone who has a license is required to pass a physical and be subject to random drug testing.

“There’s nothing random about the drug testing,” says Brady. “[The Athletic Commission] intrude in the locker room and disrupt the show by having guys randomly pee tested. There are no restrictions on this. They can test you 2 or 3 times a week, and they are very biased on who they select. One wrestler, who I will not name, refuses to wrestle in Kentucky because of the harassment he was receiving from the Athletic Commission. After being suspended in 2013, he cleaned up his life and was drug free to my knowledge. When he returned to Kentucky in 2015, he went through the application process and was granted a license. Then at every show he wrestled, he was forced to take a drug test. After doing this five weeks in a row, and passing every time, he never returned to Kentucky.”

If you’re curious why WWE, TNA, and other promotions generally give Kentucky a pass, it’s because these regulations and more (including one that states a match must stop immediately if there’s any blood) apply to every wrestling show in Kentucky.

“I think Louisville and Lexington are gonna push for relaxed rules on wrestling to get bigger events,” says PWF’s Jimmy Feltcher. “At the end of the day, money talks, and so will it be in this case.”

The new KBWA will likely cut away some of the red tape in order to incentivize the WWE to bring a major event to Louisville or Lexington, but the question remains: will the independent wrestlers and promoters see any relief? Wrestlers I’ve spoken to are largely optimistic, but the promoters remain skeptical.

“I’m curious to see committee treats the little guys because it seems like a play to bring WWE back to the city,” says UWA’s Eddie Allen. “WWE and TNA both left OVW as a development area. Plus Louisville Gardens becomes instantly attractive to a bigger fish group of people if red tape on events is cleared.”

“If Bevin wants to change it, change it,” says Brady. “Gut the current commission and let the new guys have a fresh opportunity to revitalize wrestling.”

It’s worth noting that the promoters I spoke with all run or have run promotions in Southern Indiana, immediately across the river from Louisville. At the present time, there are more than half a dozen promotions running in the Louisville area north of the river, including PWF, UWA, KDW, and one time Kentucky promotion IWA Mid-South. Odds are one or more of these groups would happily move South into Kentucky. We might even see wrestling return to the Gardens, if the stars align for the right investor and the right promoter.

It all depends on how the KBWA does it’s job. At the very least we may soon see some major WWE events come to town, bringing the money and visitors the governor hopes to attract. At best the KBWA has the opportunity to bring Kentucky into the 21st century, positioning wrestlers in the Commonwealth to join the independent wrestling revolution already sweeping the country.

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The Fearville Werewolf

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Friday night I saw a gutsy young wrestler answer an open challenge from Cash Flo. Even though Flo was bigger than him, not to mention far more experienced, Andrew Hunter took to the ring and his opponent with all the fearlessness of a veteran. He lost the match, but he won the crowd, and that is often the greater victory.

Andrew Hunter has dreamed of wrestling since the age of 8. “I never really had the aspirations of being in the Main Event of Wrestlemania. I just wanted to travel the world. I mean growing up and never having a consistent source of cable to watch the main stream product I watched wrestling where I could when I could. So this consisted of a lot of late 80’s and early 90’s Japanese tapes from AJPW and NJPW. I saw a range of the best of Stan Hanson to the best of Great Sasuke and everywhere in between. So I was captivated with the in your face smash mouth style from a young age.”

Not surprisingly, Andrew’s list of favorite wrestlers growing up has a little more diversity than most. Having watched so many overseas promotion, his favorites included Jushin ‘Thunder’ Liger, Great Sasuke, Great Muta, and Ultimo Dragon along with Randy Savage and Brian Pillman.

Andrew began his training with Jimmy Feltcher at the Coliseum in Evansville, Indiana. “My first match was a handicap match. It was Brett Taylor, Michael Kaiden and myself against Nick Depp and Nick Willis. The match went ok but we all had a lot left to learn as it pertains to the business.”

Andrew draws a great deal of inspiration from his past when it pertains to his in-ring persona. He’s smaller than most of his opponents, but he’s fearless. “[I was] raised in a home of abuse and alcoholism. Being able to come out of that environment as a success makes you a survivor. What makes me unique is that survivor mentality.”

The Fearville Werewolf, as he is sometimes called, has had some great matches in his young career, citing Toby Farley and Aaron Williams as favorite opponents. His ultimate fantasy would be a match with the late Brian Pillman, but in reality, the opponent he desires most is Sami Callihan.

Andrew works mainly in Kentucky and Indiana area, with PWF and UWA being his home promotions. He’s already been a CCW Tri-State Champion and currently holds the AWA Junior Heavyweight Champion. If all goes well, Hunter has his eyes set on ROH, NJPW, PWG, and AAA

“I just basically want to be welled traveled internationally,” he says.

You can keep up with Andrew Hunter (or contact him for bookings) via TwitterInstagramFacebook, and Youtube.

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Pondo for President?

My local wrestling community is a house divided.

Some are fans of Kentuckiana Diehard Wrestling. They have had their issues lately, namely losing their booker and some of the veteran talent, but their fans remain fiercely loyal.

Some are fans of Underground Wrestling Alliance. They’ve had some issues as well, including a big blow up with their TV producer, but their talent and their fans remain steadfastly loyal.

There’s also the Furious Wrestling Society. They haven’t had any issues that I know of, but like the others, they have a galvanized fan base that loves what they do.

And then there’s IWA Mid-South. Ian Rotten just lost his building – again – because someone tried to shut him down – again. Folks, you’re never going to shut Ian down. He’s too stubborn, and he loves the business too much. He’s been kicked out of more buildings than the people trying to shut him down have worked. He will rise again, and his Kool-Aid drinking followers will be there.

Almost none of the above mentioned folks get along, especially in the consequence free realm of cyberspace. And yet for one night, members of all four promotions and their fans came together under one roof to see Girl Fight. They came. They supported the ladies. They coexisted, and no one got into a fight.

Mad Man Pondo is the man behind Girl Fight and the unlikely broker of one night of peace in Southern Indiana wrestling. If Pondo can bring peace to warring factions on a small scale, perhaps he could do the same for our country. Hillary, Donald, Bernie, Ted… no matter who your candidate is, they are only going to divide us further.

We need change.

We need unity.

Pondo for President, anyone?

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KDW now streaming on Roku

Indie wrestling fans, you now have three local promotions producing television shows.

Kentuckiana Diehard Wrestling has made several big moves in recent weeks. KDW moved their weekly show from the Flea Market in Memphis, Indiana to the Arena in downtown Jeffersonville. Now, KDW is available to watch not only on Youtube, but the Indie Wrestling Channel on Roku. KDW features a seasoned group of veterans, many of whom will be familiar to long time OVW fans, as well as up and comers like Austin Bradley, who was featured in Eat Sleep Wrestle.

New Albany’s own UWA is already available on the Roku channel as well as Youtube. And lest we forget, Ohio Valley Wrestling holds the distinction of being the longest running weekly wrestling program in the country outside of Monday Night Raw.

D1W fans will also be interested to know that Rockstar Pro is available on the Indie Wrestling Channel, featuring Aaron Williams, Ron Mathis, Kyle Maverick, and the Crist brothers. You can also watch central Indiana promotion Emerge on the Roku channel.

And unlike the WWE Network and other major wrestling channels, the Indie Wrestling Channel is completely free. You can’t ask for an easier way to support indie wrestling.

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When all else fails, turn heel

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The fair is no easy place to work a wrestling show. You might draw a handful of devoted fans, but you’re also going to draw a number of passersby – including people who are only stopping to laugh and heckle you.

Such was the case a few weeks back in my hometown when UWA put on an outdoor show at the fair. The first couple of wrestlers out to the ring did their best to pump up the crowd but received little to no response. Add in the drunks sitting near me on the bleachers, and it was a really tough crowd.

Enter Dick Devlin.

Devlin is a UWA original, and until that night, he had been working as a babyface. But when the fair crowd cheered his opponent – also babyface – and gave him little response on his entrance, he decided to take what he was given and play the heel.

“It was a really weird night,” he said, “We had both been working as babyfaces, but the crowd didn’t know who either one of us was. They seemed to want me to play the heel, so I did.”

In playing the heel, Devlin did something no one on the card had managed to do before him. He got the handful of drunken hecklers to not only engage with the show, but cheer for him.

“I threw my opponent into the fence. They said, ‘Do it again!’ So I did.”

Devlin has since turned heel for UWA, a rising promotion based in Southern Indiana that tapes television once a month at The Production House in New Albany. Devlin fell into the role quite naturally, having played a heel most of his career, and he is enjoying life on the other side once again.

Devlin grew up a fan during the attitude era and decided to give pro wrestling a try after attending a few Destination One Wrestling shows in Indiana. It’s a part-time job for him, as he’s also a full-time student majoring in criminal justice, and while he isn’t sure wrestling will become a full-time vocation, he’s enjoying every second of it.

Devlin is also very proud to be a charter member of UWA, a group he describes as being like family. “The promoters are a father and son, and they really cultivated a family atmosphere. I’ve been in locker room where there’s fighting and drama, but we don’t have any of that. These guys are my brothers, and I love it.”

Devlin can be seen on UWA TV, both on Youtube and the free Indie Wrestling Channel on Roku. Click play on the video below and skip to minute 38 to see Devlin and friends in his favorite match to date: a TLC match filmed at The Arena in Jeffersonville.

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Underground Wrestling TV

Eddie Allen had a feel for the wrestling business long before he stuck his nose in it. Several years ago he was the lead singer of what he refers to as a “heel” band.

“My lead guitar player would go out during sound checks and play all this classic rock stuff. He’d play one riff and then another to get the crowd excited to hear some real rock and roll. Then I come out and what did we sing? Air Supply. Milli Vanilli. The crowd would boo us, and I loved it.”

As with many heel acts, the crowds slowly developed an appreciation for Allen’s unique band. “It got to the point people knew what to expect and were ready for it. Once the crowd decided to like us, it wasn’t fun any more.”

After walking away from rock and roll, Allen decided to get involved in the wrestling business. The Clarksville, Indiana native ended up down the road in Madison, where he began learning the business from Eric Draven. After helping Draven get his promotion established on Youtube, he made the jump to Ohio Valley Wrestling in Louisville to learn more about producing wrestling for TV.

“It was the most intense training I ever had,” he says. “You learn all about timing matches, working to the camera, how to tell a story. You realize that you can’t just take any independent wrestling show, film it, and put it on TV. Television wrestling is its own unique style, and that’s what I wanted to produce.”

Allen went looking for an indy federation that was willing to work with him and create a product suited for television. After a few false starts, he hooked up with Underground Wrestling Alliance, one of several groups running across the river from Louisville. UWA was filled with young, green talent who were willing to learn anything that might advance their careers. It was a perfect match, but Allen knew he needed something more.

“I went out and recruited some veterans, former OVW guys, others who had worked TV. I needed them to help me teach these kids how to wrestle for television.”

It took some time, but the investment in both time and talent paid off. In September of 2014, UWA went on the air in Louisville. “They put us on right after OVW’s TV show, and our ratings have grown ever since we went on the air.”

Television proved to be a big boost for UWA. The young wrestlers benefited greatly from the veteran leadership and the new direction, and attendance is up at the live events, both taped and untaped. Allen played to the fans early on at TV tapings, knowing that they were key to the show being a success.

“When fans come dressed up, trying to get on camera, I make sure it happens,” he says. “They’re going to go home, tell their friends to tune in and see them on TV, and our ratings are going to go up. And maybe someone who tunes in will see what we do and come to our next show.”

UWA currently airs on Time Warner Cable in Louisville three times a week: 11 PM Mondays (after Monday Night Raw), 10 AM Saturday morning, and 2:30 AM Friday night/ Saturday morning. You can also catch them for free on the Independent Wrestling Channel app available on Roku as well as their Youtube channel. You can learn more about UWA and their upcoming events on their Facebook page.

Allen is currently developing his own Roku channel and plans to use UWA as the flagship for that station. “It’s a whole new way of doing television. I’m really excited about it.”

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Aiden Blackhart: The Second Strongest Man Alive

11258747_10202966528522690_119951354_oIt’s not easy being the second strongest man alive. All Aiden Blackhart wants to do is inspire fat, lazy wrestling fans to follow his fitness program and get in shape like he is. And what thanks does he get? Boos, chops to the chest, and in a recent match against DJ Hyde – chair shots from small children.

The fans love to hate Aiden Blackhart, and he wouldn’t have it any other way.

The Lebanon, Kentucky native fell in love with wrestling when he was just a kid. In middle school he and some friends began wrestling in the backyard on the trampoline. There was never a signature moment when Blackhart decided to become a wrestler. His friend, WWE Tough Enough hopeful Shane Mercer, introduced him to a promoter who told him all he needed was a license and he could try the real thing.

“Getting licensed wasn’t as easy as he made it sound,” Blackhard laughs, “But I got one.”

Blackhart admits he had a lot to learn coming in. “I didn’t understand things like respect for the veterans and shaking hands in the back. I just went out and wrestled. I copied a lot of guys’ moves in the ring, and they took exception to it.”

One night, veteran Nick Noble took to the ring after seeing Blackhart use his finishing kick and gave Blackhart a kick of his own. Noble challenged him to a match the following week. “I was scared to death he was going to shoot on me, but it was the easiest match I’d had. He talked me through the whole thing. He taught me a lot. Later that night, he sat me down and explained to me the importance of respect in this business. I owe him a lot.”

Blackhart’s title as the Second Strongest Man in the World came after taking a break in 2013. “I was this bald guy who was kind of a brawler, like Steve Austin, but I didn’t really have a gimmick. I was working for Destination One Wrestling in New Albany, Indiana, when promoter Ron Aslam suggested I do a fitness gimmick, Body by Aiden. I liked it, but I changed it to Body by Blackhart.”

Blackhart has wrestled with a number of talented veterans like DJ Hyde, Tracy Smothers, and Mad Man Pondo. “I was scared to death of Pondo because of all the hardcore stuff he used to do, but when he got me in the test of strength, it was the lightest I’d ever experienced. He was great to work with.”

Another veteran Blackhart worked with was the late J.C. Bailey. Blackhart’s proudest moment was working the first annual J.C. Bailey Memorial Tournament. “I was in a Fatal 4-Way Ladder Match for the Tri-State Title. At the end of the match, I went off a ladder through two tables set up on the floor. Bailey was a big hero of mine, and it meant a lot to me to be a part of that night.

Blackhart recently decided to move to Louisville, and he’s hoping to continue expanding his bookings in independent wrestling. His biggest goal for 2015: to earn a tryout with Juggalo Championship Wrestling. You can catch him and his trusty Shake Weight at shows around Indiana, Kentucky, and Ohio and on television with UWA in Louisville.

Photo courtesy of Michael Herm Photography.